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I like big books.

I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants - Joe Kelly, J.M. Ken Niimura image

There needs to be an emergency 10-star rating button for books like I Kill Giants built into Goodreads and only accessible when you're in that post-masterpiece euphoric/nostalgic state of mind that I hereby dub "story high." It's that feeling you get where as soon as you're done with a story you want to go out and buy 100 copies so you can put 50 in a safe to preserve them for future generations of humanity and give the other 50 to every person you care even a little bit about. The feeling that compels you to write letters that will never be read to authors just to tell them that they're genius, not so that you can get anything in return, but because they have to know how amazing they are. Its the feeling that compels you to use the story to explicate the meaning of life in 1 A.M. barroom arguments with your friends.

I think I've had such an extraordinary run of luck when it comes to graphic novels this year that sometimes I feel like I've lost my ability to be critical. Almost every single one of the past six or seven I've read have been five stars. Perhaps that's just because I've put off stuff that's been highly recommended and I'm only now getting to it, but whatever the case, I'm glad I have. As amazing and eminently likable as [b:The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite|2795053|The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 Apocalypse Suite|Gerard Way|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327877097s/2795053.jpg|2820826] and [b:Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft|3217221|Locke and Key, Vol. 1 Welcome to Lovecraft|Joe Hill|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327921403s/3217221.jpg|3251160] were, I Kill Giants trumps them both for poignancy, imaginativeness and character design. The art is boldly black and white and works symbiotically with the narration to tell a story that is heartbreakingly heroic.


Young Barbara Thorson is my hero - a little girl who inhabits a troubled world populated by giants both real and imagined who finds a way to empower and defend herself and the world from harm both physical and psychological. Outcast, bullied and teetering on the edge of sanity, Barbara indulges in a fantasy that may save her life as easily as it can destroy it. She is convinced that giants are real and that they're coming soon to destroy the world. It is her responsibility to stop them. Barbara is an irreverent social misfit; abnormally intelligent, she intimidates and flumoxes her peers and teachers alike who find it difficult to help her through the troubles her wild imagination helps her to avoid. As the story progresses, forced confrontations with reality push Barbara deeper and deeper into the world of her imaginings. As pressure mounts, so does the intricacy, frequency and realism of the manifestations of her imagination. Are they real or are they the delusions of a girl from a broken home? Either way, Barbara single-handedly carries this story with the force of her personality. In her Joe Kelly has managed to capture the very essence of youth with all of its fragility and resilience - a character that every human being who finds solace in comic books to escape a shitty life or poor health can identify with. Barbara is the quintessential superhero, weak and delicate with a mask of invulnerability.

In Kelly's incredibly capable and subtle hands we see a series of incredibly complex transformations from sane to insane, weak to strong, lonesome to loved and vice-versa worked out in all the ways that life throws is curveballs. JM Ken Niimura's art is not only visually stunning, but complimentary to Kelly's witty dialogue. Each illustrated panel tells as much of the story as any written word does. Shadow and light are used dynamically to compliment inner emotional developments in ways that avoid being obvious and melodramatic. In fact, if you completely cut out the words, you could probably do a gallery walk of Niimura's art and come away with much the same feeling. The words are the icing on the perfect cake. Not overly sweet, but balanced in a way that doesn't make you sick and never want to see cake again for the rest of your life.


I Kill Giants is a beautiful story of friendship and courage carried by believable and lovable characters. Go read it. Go love it. Share it with every member of the human race so we can all be better for it.